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Archive for Thursday, May 3, 2007

Wheat tour finds wide-ranging crop conditions

May 3, 2007

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— Wheat industry experts on a three-day winter wheat tour hope an abundant harvest in western Kansas may offset production losses in regions where crops were hurt by the late spring freeze.

The annual wheat tour is scheduled to end today, followed by the release of the first comprehensive industry estimate of the size of this year's Kansas wheat crop.

"In the central part of the state there is a lot of freeze damage and a lot of problems, but as you go west it is good-looking wheat - probably the best western Kansas has seen in a number of years," Dean Stoskopf, a Hoisington grower and Kansas Wheat commissioner on the tour, said Wednesday.

The annual tour, sponsored by the Wheat Quality Council, began Tuesday with about 65 industry experts traveling across the state assessing crop conditions. The tour - this year marks the 50th such event - draws farmers, grain marketers, bakers, millers and other industry experts.

Before the Easter weekend freeze, Kansas had prospects for a winter wheat crop that could reach 500 million bushels, Stoskopf said. The hard freeze that hit central Kansas growing areas especially hard dashed those hopes.

But the wheat in the western part of the state is doing so well this season that the state may still harvest an average winter wheat crop.

"It is too early to say that - but it is possible," Stoskopf said. "The last five years we have averaged 350 million bushels. It is conceivable that we could have that kind of yield, or better, with the conditions we have out there."

With ideal growing conditions and strong crop prices, farmers had hoped for a bountiful harvest this year to make up for back-to-back years of drought. That made the Easter weekend freeze especially hard for many battered farm families.

Last year, drought-weary growers took in only 291.2 million bushels, down 23 percent from the 2005 crop. Yields last year were 32 bushels per acre, 8 bushels fewer than previous season.

This year's tour has estimated yields in freeze-damaged areas in mostly central Kansas ranging from zero to 30 bushels per acre, Stoskopf said. In western Kansas the bushels-per-acre yields were in the low 40s.

In northwest Kansas, some fields' bushel-per-acre forecast were into the 40s and 50s, he said, although noting that area is still could have a late spring freeze.

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